- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Denouncing Ivory Coast

The U.S. ambassador to Ivory Coast yesterday denounced the human rights record of the politically unstable West African nation.

Ambassador George Mu's criticism follows the release Monday of a State Department report that cited widespread torture, illegal arrests and political repression in Ivory Coast.

Mr. Mu said the country suffered under two separate governments in the past year, one led by military ruler Robert Guei and one by the current president, Laurent Gbagbo.

"Our concern is that the human rights situation has deteriorated steadily over the past 18 months. It appears to be continuing with no end," Mr. Mu said at a news conference. The report was part of an annual worldwide review of human rights.

"Security forces are acting with impunity and going into people's homes. Detentions and extortion are taking place throughout the country," he said.

"On the judicial side, we have serious concerns about how some [political trials] are being conducted with delays. We also note that certain investigations carried out on violations by former governments have been minimal."

A popular uprising forced Mr. Guei to flee Ivory Coast after he refused to accept defeat in last year's presidential election. The new government is trying to repress the main opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara.

"We have a government that is elected under a flawed process," Mr. Mu said, complaining about election fraud.

The ambassador said the United States supports social programs through private organizations but has supplied no government aid since the December 1999 coup that brought Mr. Guei to power.

"Last year we spent about $1 million to promote democratic practices … and $12.3 million on health and anti-AIDS programs," he said.

Democracy in action

The press spokesman of the Japanese Embassy said goodbye to the United States with an impassioned embrace of American democracy and regrets that he will miss the blossoming of a Washington spring.

Kazuo Kodama and his wife, Keiko, headed for India last week for their fifth overseas posting.

"I have come to admire your democracy," he told friends at a farewell reception.

"The United States embodies the ideals of democracy, freedom and justice," he said. "The United States, being a nation built upon ideals, has never ceased to emanate hope to the nations that have not yet achieved these ideals." The presidential election dispute in Florida only strengthened his respect for the American political system.

"To the very end, due process was doggedly pursued to legitimize the struggle for the presidency by an adjudication under the ideals embodied in the Constitution," he said.

Mr. Kodama said he will miss the blossoming of magnolias, cherry and dogwood trees.

"We dearly lament we will not see this year's National Cherry Blossom Festival," he said of the annual celebration of the Japanese cherry trees on the Tidal Basin.

Raiding Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is losing officials to the Bush administration, which has raided the venerable foreign-policy think tank to fill three top positions.

The institute's Aspen Strategy Group yesterday announced replacements for Director Robert Zoellick, the new U.S. trade representative; Co-chairman Kenneth Dam, the new deputy Treasury secretary; and Associate Director Mary Catherine Andrews, who joined the National Security Council.

Mr. Zoellick will be replaced by Philip Zelikow, a history professor at the University of Virginia and deputy director of the strategy group since 1997.

Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush, will replace Mr. Dam, and Meghan Bradley, the group's program coordinator, will assume the associate director's position.

Elmer W. Johnson, president of the Aspen Institute, said, "Those of us at the Aspen Institute proudly salute Bob Zoellick for his contribution to our organization and wish him well as our nation's chief trade negotiator."

The 50-year-old Colorado institute founded its strategy group in 1984 as a bipartisan team of foreign and defense experts.

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